Cancer Survivor Pushes to the Sun Run Finish in Fighting Form

From The Vancouver Sun – April 14, 2014

By Bethany Lindsay

After radiation therapy to treat breast cancer left Val MacLanders in the worst shape of her life 10 years ago, she realized she needed a big push to get back into fighting form.

“I couldn’t even make it down to the mailbox. My health had really declined,” said the Surrey woman, who is in her early 50s.

She decided to take a huge leap and sign up for theSun Run, hoping that the InTraining clinics offered by SportMedBC would help take her from barely walking to running 10 kilometres in one go.

Photo: Richard Lam, PNG. From left, Lesley Deust, Julia Foy, Vanessa Whittell, Hannah Daniel , Val MacLanders, Mary Ann Pelzer, Nina Boechler, Kate Mills and Suzanne Lazarakis from the Sun Run group Sole Sisters.At her very first clinic, MacLanders was asked to estimate her running ability. She hadn’t run since elementary school but remembered being very good at it, so she said she belonged in the “fast” category.

“It quickly became apparent I wasn’t fast. I wasn’t even slow. I was probably the worst runner they’d ever seen. It was a real eye-opener,” she said.

And so she joined the Learn to Run clinic. When race day arrived, she found herself running the entire distance, a transformation she describes as “amazing.”

MacLanders has participated in the race every year since and has continued to train with the Learn to Run group because, as she said, “I’ve never learned to run any faster.”

But this year, she was forced to admit she wouldn’t be able to run the full 10 kilometres. The cancer returned and MacLanders had a double mastectomy last June. Her chemotherapy ended in November and she was left with terrible joint pain.

She signed up for the Learn to Run clinic again this year, but after three sessions of increasing intensity, she decided to make the switch to Nordic walking.

“I still enjoy going to the Sunday clinics … It’s just fun to be part of that whole organization and it does make you accountable because there are many Sundays when you’d rather just be in bed,” she said.

MacLanders plans to walk the 10 kilometres next weekend, as long as she feels up to it after some reconstructive surgery on Tuesday. Right now, she said she feels healthy and her doctors are optimistic about her future prospects.

She credits the InTraining program for helping her get back to normal after the first battle with cancer.

“It got me out of the house and it got me motivated, which is what I was looking for. I needed some kind of a structure to force me to get me out there,” she said.

Another big inspiration for her has been the group of friends she met during her first training clinic. The 10 women, who call themselves the Sole Sisters, have run together every year since then, signing up for the race as a group.

“We’ve maintained this friendship that keeps us all motivated to keep running and get out there a couple of times a week,” she said.

Their game plan for this year is simple: meet up together at the starting line and then regroup at the River Rock Casino buffet in Richmond once the race is over. “We might run a 10K but we eat enough for a 20K,” MacLanders said.

This article is from the Monday, April 14th edition of The Vancouver Sun

Photo: Richard Lam, PNG

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